SACS to decide on A&M-Commerce's warning status
A&M-Commerce will soon learn its fate in regard to the warning status it received last summer for not having enough faculty when the results of a review are released on Dec. 6.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) placed A&M-Commerce under a warning status because "the Commission's Board of Trustees determined that the institution had failed to demonstrate compliance with Core Requirements 2.8 (Faculty) of the Principles of Accreditation," according to a statement provided by SACS.
The university can keep track of this by taking the amount of credit hours it is serving and comparing it to the amount of faculty in each department.
But it is not that cut-and-dry when dealing with SACS, according to President Dr. Dan Jones. He said the university is tasked with proving they do have enough faculty and are making enough of an effort to match growth with expansion.
"Basically, while the understanding has been we didn't have enough full-time faculty; actually the warning says we did not demonstrate that we didn't have enough full-time faculty," Jones said. "One of the things that we were very careful to do in our response was to provide very deep and detailed documentation of our situation. Our initial report addressing [Core Requirement] 2.8 was maybe two, two-and-a-half pages. Our follow-up response was about twenty pages."
The statement released by SACS provided the different scenarios facing A&M-Commerce when it is reviewed at the General Meeting taking place in Orlando on Dec. 3-6. The university could either have the warning status removed without any additional report, go through another period under warning status, be placed on Probation and prompt the authorization of a special SACS committee, or be completely removed from SACS membership.
Jones, however, is sure that A&M-Commerce will see the warning status lifted.
"I am very confident of that; that's my expectation in fact," he said. "I can't think of any concern they expressed that we have not responded to. I will be shocked and surprised if it's not lifted. We provided a lot more information in response to the warning and that's why I'm so confident that this is going to be lifted. I don't think we actually had a problem."
The growth in student population over the past few years has put the university in a unique position in the face of state budget cuts. Jones said he and other administration members did predict this becoming an issue.
"We saw it coming, but it is always kind of a scramble to get all the pieces in place and actually make it happen," he said. "Whenever you grow, you're going to have growing pains. One of the quirks of bi-annual funding is we report our weighted semester credit hours two years before we actually receive the funding for that growth. So, universities that are in growth mode are always in a two-year squeeze until you get the full funding to accommodate the growth you experienced two years ago."
Since SACS handed down the warning status, A&M-Commerce has added about 30 full-time faculty and filled 25 empty positions, according to Jones.
"It is a combination of vacant, unfilled lines –because we had a number of those – plus brand new budgeted lines that were made possible because of our growth. We're doing close to 60 faculty searches this year. We've had pretty robust growth for that last two years in a row now. In simple terms, when we grow we have more revenue coming in and we need to turn that revenue into capacity, and that's what we did by creating all these faculty lines."
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